“Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’
The passing of Lakers owner Jerry Buss today is a tragedy not just for the world of sports, but the world as a whole. His impact on the Lakers organization, and the way we view basketball today, is beyond words. With his passing, we’ve lost one of the greatest owners in the history of pro sports.
It’s only fitting to begin this post with a quote from one of the most famous pieces of contemporary poetry. Dr. Jerry Buss was all about shining the spotlight on his employees and growing his team’s brand to universal heights. He was an owner who was known by all, and I believe I needed to start this post with a poem as iconic as the man himself.
It’s difficult to write heartfelt words about a man you’ve never been in the same country as, let alone one you’ve never met. It feels almost wrong, because you’re so far detached from the true mourning that is occurring as we speak. One can only extend their most heartfelt condolences to the Buss family and their inner circle.
We all have reasons to be thankful for Dr. Buss and his impact on the NBA. He was the owner that oversaw the birth of “Showtime At the Forum”, coupling one of the most exciting squads of all-time with an equally memorable atmosphere. He embraced the showmanship of Magic Johnson and his championship teams, whipping The Forum into a frenzy of excitement and glorious passion. He oversaw the growth of the Lakers into a worthy contender to the Boston Celtics. And over the course of his career, watched the team shift from Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the dynasty of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, collecting 10 championships under his watchful ownership.
I have a personal obligation to be thankful to Dr. Buss and the work he did in growing the Lakers into a global brand. Living in Australia, the NBA is sparingly advertised and only found if one seeks it out. The Lakers were the first team to pique my interest, partly due to their large profile in all parts of the world, including Australia. It’s perfectly possible that had Jerry Buss never decided to buy into the Lakers and proceed to grow their brand, I may not have been so exposed to them and in turn, the NBA – which is a terrifying thought for somebody whose life is about the NBA.
Buss’ passing puts things into perspective for a Lakers franchise suffering through one of the most intolerable seasons in recent team history. It’s a tragic, subtle reminder that whatever happens on the hardwood, things are hardly bad. There will not be a single sadder day for the Lakers this season – regardless of whether or not they miss the playoffs, who goes down injured, or where Dwight Howard signs this summer. At the end of the day, basketball is just a game. Granted, it’s a game we’re all very passionate about, and an integral part of our lifestyle. But there’s a real world out there with life, love, loss and death which sometimes can escape us when we’re looking at the league with NBA-centric tunnel vision.
The past few days have brought up the 50th birthday of the immortal Michael Jordan, and now the passing of a man who lived his entire 80 year life like he was a 25 year old. It’s a sobering reminder that no matter how many years Kyrie Irving has ahead of him, or how exciting the future is for the New Orleans Hornets, nothing in the league, nor the world, lasts forever. Jerry Buss lived his life in many ways: flamboyantly, with determination, with intellect and a lot of success. It’s difficult for a lot of us to simply embrace those maxims, but there is one that we can learn from not just in regards to this sport, but in this life – enjoy what you have, and live in the moment.